Each day, more than three million tourists cross international borders, and every year more than one billion people travel abroad. Simply put, travel and tourism combined are now one of the world’s largest industries. To make sure that the power of travel is harnessed as a positive force for people and the planet, the United Nations has declared 2017 The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The three key pillars of Sustainable Tourism are:

  • Environmentally-friendly Practices
  • Support for Protecting Cultural and Natural Heritage
  • Social and Economic Benefits to Local People

At Big Five, our longstanding commitment to sustainable tourism runs deep, and we are proud to be the only travel company to have won the prestigious Virtuoso Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award, not once, but twice (2014 and 2016). We know that experiencing an outstanding vacation and supporting the pillars of sustainable tourism can go hand in hand. We are proud to share with you how traveling with Big Five can help to support cultural heritage, protect endangered species, deliver local economic benefits, and further cross-cultural understanding and peace in the world – all wrapped together into the journey of a lifetime.

Our second in this year-long series of related blogs explores the first pillar as stated above – Environmentally Friendly Practices.

Moving beyond our own company efforts, Big Five begins planning journeys by selecting partners that share our sustainability mind set. We ask lots and lots of questions about their operations, their local employees, the systems they have in place, projects and plans they are working on. Here are examples of authentically eco-friendly partners in three diverse regions.

In Northern Australia’s ‘Top End’ on the edge of the Mary River floodplains, a short distance from the coast, is the camp of Bamurru Plains, a private buffalo pastoral property with nine safari bungalows built on stilts overlooking the floodplains. This Top End region is home to an extraordinary wilderness in the Mary River Delta, just west of Kakadu National Park.

This is a place of climatic extremes where the tropical monsoon climate brings spectacular stormy skies and an annual cycle of environmental rebirth. Here, the camp has carefully planned every aspect with an eye to minimizing impacts on the land. The design encompasses energy usage, waste disposal, choice of linens, recycling bottles and eco-certified cleaning materials. The bulk, about 75%, of the camp’s power is generated by the sun through an array of 128 solar panels. This not only ensures a predominantly clean source of energy but also allows guests to hear the sounds of the bush at night without the noise of a diesel generator humming in the background. The camp also supports communities by using products that are produced locally. Bamurru Plains takes sustainability seriously while promoting a more intimate interaction between their guests and the local ecosystems; and between guests and the local community. Experience this amazing outing for yourself on our 14-day Wild Australia.

Far off in the Indian Ocean southwest of the Bay of Bengal, tiny Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, boasts a history that spans 3,000 years, with evidence of pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years, probably much farther. In this idyllic island setting, Jetwing Hotels Sri Lanka has created a collection of properties that range from pristine beach getaways, to lush mountain retreats, to rural hideaways. Eco-friendly practices are found in the center of every project. Companywide, Jetwing Hotels’ decisions include not using plastic water bottles in the restaurants; asking suppliers to reduce unnecessary packaging; switching to energy efficient lights; implementing active programs to reduce waste; and promptly replacing damaged equipment such as leaking taps. It has programs to train local service suppliers such as trishaw drivers so that they become quality-accredited business partners. Energy and water conservation are two vitally addressed issues at Jetwing properties. Hot water is generated by renewable energy sources: solar heaters and boilers powered by responsibly sourced cinnamon wood that would be an otherwise discarded by-product of the cinnamon spice industry. In 2014 alone, Jetwing Hotels saved over 140 million liters of freshwater by treating and reusing 100% of the wastewater generated at the hotels.

Each Jetwing hotel also has its own environmental initiatives. Jetwing Vil Uyana, within sight of the historically significant fortress of Sigiriya, embodies the best of environmentally proactive practices with luxury. The buildings blend into the landscape, a unique challenge as this was a wetland system on reclaimed agricultural lands. In fact, Jetwing Vil Uyana may have been the first hotel in the world to create a man-made wetland with a range of water-based and forested habitats on land previously used for slash and burn agriculture. The nearly 25-acre property has been planned to feature several projects including re-growing paddy using traditional and organic harvesting methods; developing a water reservoir; and replanting a forested area using species native to the dry zone. And the personnel here are committed to preserving and enhancing the naturalness of the environment while preventing damage and destruction. Treated water from the sewage treatment plant is used for the garden, water storage tanks and taps are checked daily for leaks by a duty technician, and housekeeping staff have been made aware to watch for of water leaks in guest rooms. Water-saving cisterns have been installed and routine preventative maintenance is carried out on a planned schedule. Explore Sir Lanka on our President’s Pick: Sri Lanka of Teas & Temples to experience two of Jetwing’s distinguished hotels.

For decades, the primary method to explore Ecuador’s fabled Galapagos Islands was by ship. But that has led to a slow degradation of the island experience with too much – too many ships, too many people and too much pollution. This is a prime example of a destination being “loved to death.”

But there is another way. A handful of hotels such as the Finch Bay Hotel and the Galapagos Safari Camp on Santa Cruz Island are heralding the way toward the historic islands’ future: land-based exploration, where guests fly between islands. This would result in fewer visitors, less stress on the islands and less pressure on the marine ecosystems. This will also provide an improved visitor experience.

Finch Bay Hotel, like other island hotels here, have developed a roster of core environmental practices to conserve resources and protect the unique attributes of each island. The hotel has developed an extensive network for rainwater collection and has a water treatment plant for purification for their own water uses. There is a program in place to constantly monitor water systems to avoid leaks. One drop of water per second in a pipe can add up to 2,650 gallons of water lost annually!

The hotel also maintains an organic garden to produce fruits and vegetables in order to reduce its carbon footprint, both by reducing the amount of food that needs to be imported and by recycling their home-made compost. The garden also improves fresh food availability. In addition, energy-saving measures include solar panels, LED light bulbs, movement sensors and more efficient electrical appliances, improved insulation in all rooms, using environmentally-friendly and biodegradable detergents, and by providing biodegradable amenities such as shampoos for guests.  Discover a better way to travel in the islands on our President’s Pick: Ecuador’s Galapagos & Amazon.

Stay tuned in coming months as we show you how traveling with Big Five can help to support cultural heritage, protect endangered species, deliver local economic benefits, and further understanding across cultures while exploring on the journey of a lifetime.

 

Time honored and ubiquitous in much of the world, the three-wheeled ‘auto rickshaw’, aka tuk tuk, is the modern incarnation of the rickshaw. It is a common form of inexpensive, urban transport, especially in tropical climates, including many developing countries. It is used by everyone from business men to school girls to tourists.

Especially popular in Southeast Asia, there are many tuk tuk variations and designs. The most common type is characterized by a sheet-metal body or open frame resting on three wheels, a canvas roof with drop-down side curtains, a small cabin at the front for the driver (sometimes known as an auto-wallah) with handlebar controls, and a cargo, passenger, or dual purpose space at the rear.

The predecessor of the tuk tuk is the original rickshaw invented in Japan about 1869, according to author Hanchao Lu in Beyond the Neon Lights: Everyday Shanghai in the Early Twentieth Century. Until 1868, vehicles with wheels were banned in Japan during the Tokugawa period (1603–1868).

For many young men from the country who migrated to large Asian cities, their first job was as a rickshaw runner, which was once called the “the deadliest occupation in the East.”

Anyone who has been a passenger in a tuk tuk in a bustling city like Bangkok can attest that it is a thrilling, sometimes seemingly death-defying, experience as the driver darts in and out of traffic along congested streets, among swarms of shoppers and school kids.

Now, you’re the driver! That’s right – in Bangkok, we offer you an experience like no other. Take tuk tuk lessons assisted by your guide as well as by a qualified driving instructor. After learning about the theory part, you will get to the most exhilarating part of the experience – actually driving one of these unique vehicles on your own. Needless to say, you will be rewarded with your Tuk-Tuk Driving License when you finish your drive.

Take a chance and go on a tuk tuk toot during our President’s Pick: Incredible Indochina.

While the word glamping only appeared for the first time in the United Kingdom about a decade ago, the concept that it implies, that of luxurious tent-living, is decidedly not new.

In the 16th Century, the Scottish Duke of Atholl prepared an extraordinary glamping experience in the Highlands for King James V and his mother with lavish tents filled with all the provisions of his own palace.

About the same time, the Ottoman sultans had ostentatious, palatial tents erected and then transported from one military mission to the next. Armies of artisans traveled with the military to set up and maintain these imperial tents.

The idea surfaced in Africa in the 1920s, when safaris became the realm of wealthy travelers seeking ultra comfort and luxury while in search of adventure. And, they were provided with every domestic comfort from folding baths to buckets of champagne.

Fast forward to 2017, and the concept is still being reinvented for the next generation with style but away from the all-luxe-all-the-time themes of the past.

Today, glamping in locales from a Guatemalan pyramid to a Chilean glacier is more about the luxury of experience.

In Guatemala, for example, Uaxactun was a sacred place of the Maya civilization, with the earliest known public structures dating back to 600 BCE. Yet archaeological research suggests that the site may have been occupied 400 years earlier, making this one of the longest-occupied Maya settlements. Uaxactun was defeated in a lengthy war with Tikal, which ended in 378 CE.

On our Colombia & Guatemala journey, you stroll crossing the same stones that ancient Mayans walked on, and that the U.S. archeologist Sylvanus Morley rediscovered in 1916. Watch the sun set in the company of an astronomy specialist. Then, stay overnight in the ruins of this amazing site. What a unique way to experience this ancient mystical Maya site in the comfort of your own private camp.

In Chile, during our President’s Pick: Chile’s Patagonia & Mapuche Culture, glamping redefines the luxury of place, as you go glamping on a glacier. Yes, you overnight on Exploradores Glacier after a day spent trekking across a glacial moraine and ice climbing. On the ice, everything becomes magical: the landscape, the colors, the sculpted glacial forms, and even the sounds of the ice cracking and your crampons breaking the ice. After a long day, you camp out in this amazing, pristine environment of ice, sea and air.

So… if you sneeze and no one is around do you still hear it?

Spirit Of Big Five FoundationEach day, more than three million tourists cross international borders, and every year more than one billion people travel abroad.  Simply put, travel and tourism combined are now one of the world’s largest industries. To make sure that the power of travel is harnessed as a positive force for people and the planet, the United Nations has declared 2017 The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The three key pillars of Sustainable Tourism are:

  • Environmentally-friendly Practices
  • Support for Protecting Cultural and Natural Heritage
  • Social and Economic Benefits to Local People

At Big Five, our longstanding commitment to sustainable tourism runs deep, and we are proud to be the only travel company to have won the prestigious Virtuoso Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award, not once, but twice (2014 and 2016). At Big Five, we know that a wonderful holiday and supporting the pillars of sustainable tourism can go hand in hand. Each month throughout this year, in celebration of the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism, we are proud to share with you how traveling with Big Five can help to support cultural heritage, protect endangered species, deliver local economic benefits, and further cross-cultural understanding and peace in the world – all wrapped together into the vacation of a lifetime. This month’s blog focuses on travel and the wellbeing of local communities.

In East Africa, we have long supported private wildlife conservancies that include small-scale tented safari camps and authentic ecolodges. These conservancies, owned by local indigenous communities, deliver job and educational opportunities to local people as well as provide important income to the indigenous landowners. The local community directly benefits – with dignity and without charity – through your visit.

Once such conservancy is the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT) in Kenya. Not only does Big Five support the conservancy through our responsible travel itineraries to this spectacular wilderness area, covering more than 20,000 acres located in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, but our Spirit of Big Five Foundation also makes donations to support MWCT indigenous community health programs and anti-poaching patrols to protect endangered elephant and rhinos. MWCT operates on land owned by the local Maasai community, which receives income when travelers stay at their flagship lodge, Campi Ya Kanzi, located in the heart of MWCT. The staff and guides are local Maasai, as are the MWCT rangers who work under a partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service. Experience the world of the Maasai during our Precious Journeys® Kenya: Kids, Cats & A Tree House.

For Big Five, supporting local people also translates into empowering women in the workforce and as business owners. Five years ago, the United Nations General Assembly created “UN Women,” the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, to encourage and support the advancement of gender equality on a global scale. Big Five also recognizes the transformative power of women and girls. It is no secret among international development experts, that when you empower women in the workforce, you improve the livelihoods of entire communities, as the economic income among women goes more directly to benefit their families. When more women work, villages, neighborhoods, and communities also prosper. Gender equality in the work place is win-win for everyone. In both Egypt and India, Big Five hires women guides, both for their unique insights into the local culture, as seen through a woman’s eyes, and as powerful way to elevate women into the workforce.  We have introduced this in Egypt and India.

In Nicaragua, Big Five guests support the wellbeing of local people by, among other ways, visiting a Hammock Workshop in Granada that works with local residents who are deaf and mute, as well as with inner city children in need. The project employs these individuals to make hammocks from discarded recycled plastic bags, which have been collected by school children in exchange for school supplies. The hammocks are then sold to tourists and locals alike. Explore President’s Pick: Natural Nicaragua.

We believe in the power of travel to make the world a better place. We welcome you to join us on this great journey.

« back